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McPaul consistency overcomes lure of big fish
  |  First Published: September 2016



Taree’s Owen McPaul claimed his spot in the ABT record books after winning the Austackle presented Lake Boondooma BASS Pro, the fourth and final round of the BassCat BASS Pro Series.

McPaul’s 9/12 limit of 7kg wouldn’t have gotten a look in at last year’s event, but thanks to a dropping lake level, a fickle bite saw the majority of the field struggle to identify any pattern that rivaled McPaul’s for consistency.

For his efforts, McPaul took home $2500 cash, as well as the OSP Rookie Reward for being the highest placed angler competing in their first season of ABT BASS Pro competition.

He weighed fish in all three sessions, a feat only five boater competitors managed. It was this consistency that secured victory for McPaul, in a tournament where he was by far and away the best on the water.

McPaul had travelled to nearby Bjelke-Peterson Dam before arriving at Boondooma to sample the waterway for this year’s Grand Final, and it was there he began formulating a strategy for the Friday prefish.

“BP fished differently to Boondooma and it really threw me a curveball for prefish day,” explained McPaul. “At BP, they ate jerkbaits and spinnerbaits really well, which is what I was expecting for Boondooma, but I think the dropping water level really put the fish off, and I struggled to replicate that pattern all morning on Friday. It wasn’t until I abandoned that idea and ventured into the timbered area of both arms that I landed my first fish.”

McPaul had a one-two punch that triggered almost all his bites, targeting fish staging between 15-30ft among the labyrinth of standing timber.

“I really had two go-to baits for this weekend, one was the ever faithful Z-Man Slim SwimZ rigged on a matching TT DemonZ jighead and jig spin. The other was a Keitech Easy Shiner, which I also rigged on the DemonZ head.”

His technique was pretty straightforward – locate the fish in the suitable depth range between 15-30ft, and cast the offering out as far as possible, allow the bait to reach the bottom and then commence a slow retrieve back to the boat.

“Some bites would come away from the structure but the vast majority of the fish I was catching came from really close to sunken timber,” explained McPaul.

He wound his baits so slowly he could feel as the lure began to ride over a sunken limb of a submerged tree. This also ensured that he was able to gently ease his bait over to avoid snagging, and this was the time to anticipate the bite.

“You really had to be in the thick of it to draw a bite, the fish were shutdown with the weather and the dropping water, so I think anything short of force feeding them your bait wasn’t going to get you very far.”

His choice of tackle consisted of two main rods of choice, the first a Daiwa Generation Black Albino, the second a prototype Dusk rod that he is helping to develop. He paired both rods to Daiwa Caldia 2508 reels and spooled them with 8lb Daiwa TD Sensor braid, topped off with 4lb or 6lb Gamma fluorocarbon leaders.

McPaul noted the light line was delivering more bites, which is more typical of our southern impoundments, a theory that’s hard to argue with if you look at the stats.

“I am really lucky I didn’t hook any fish that Boondooma is famous for, there’s no chance I would have landed them in the country I was in with the gear I had. I fished the conditions of the weekend, the bite was tough and as it turned out, 9/12 small fish was enough to fend off a really great bunch of anglers.”

McPaul thanked his longtime sponsors of Tackle Tactics, and also heaped praise onto Switchbait, Manning River Marine, and the soon to be available Dusk rods.

McPaul now turns his attention to the 2016 BassCat BASS Pro Grand Final, where he will be vying for the trip of a lifetime, travelling and competing alongside Australian Bassmaster Elite Series Pro Carl Jocumsen for almost two weeks in the United States next year.

Hickson locks up AOY with runner-up finish

Perennial podium occupier Kris Hickson stamped his name as a certified dual species specialist, securing a runner-up finish to end his season as the Bassman BASS Pro AOY points champion. Needing to improve on two 9th place finishes at the Hunter Valley double header, Hickson almost achieved perfection, securing 199/200 points at the last two events of the season to overtake previous leader Mitchell Cone.

It was a tough slog for Hickson over the weekend, with his second session 4/4 2.49kg bag anchoring his 7/12 6.11kg limit to beat third place Simon Marchant by almost 500g.

Hickson’s tournament didn’t revolve around one specific spot, he relied on areas that stretched from right near the boat ramp, to Pelican Point and up into the Stuart Arm timber. He identified schools and areas during the Friday prefish that were paramount to Hickson’s success over the tournament.

“I fished a lot of places during the event. I spent a lot of prefish just looking, watching my Humminbirds for anything that looked like a good group of fish. I managed to find a few places I thought I could count on, but, bass being bass, a lot of those fish moved throughout the tournament weekend and I either couldn’t relocate them or didn’t relocate them quickly enough.”

Session one saw Hickson start on a ledge in the Stuart Arm just before the timber. He chose to target the area with plastics and tail-spinners, occasionally dropping an ice-jig to fish that had grouped under the boat. It was the vertical approach that scored his first keeper, a solid 1.2kg Boondooma bass. Persisting with the technique, Hickson was unable to trigger another bite. With the area now dormant, Hickson moved up back towards the boat ramp to a rockwall where he’d located fish the day before. His school was still there, albeit unwilling to cooperate for the most part. Opting to again lean on the vertical presentation of an ice-jig, Hickson was able to scrounge up two undersize bass and one small legal to leave himself with 2/4 for Saturday morning.

After weighing his catch towards the end of the weigh-in window, Hickson chose to target a fresh patch of fish he’d located inside the timbered area of the Stuart Arm.

“I’d found a good patch of fish inside the timber in the Stuart, but for the life of me couldn’t find them again in the tournament. I wasted an hour of the afternoon session looking for those fish to no avail.” Then began a procession of fruitless stops, as Hickson cycled back through his successful locations from the morning. With twenty minutes to go before the 4pm weigh-in, Hickson travelled down towards Pelican Point, to a mark he’d placed in prefish and found a group of small but willing bass. The first drop produced a double hook-up for himself and non-boating partner Joshua Evans. The pair quickly turned their session around landing five legal bass in a red-hot flurry, which pushed him into 3rd place entering the final session on Sunday.

Sunday saw Hickson cycle through all of Saturday’s locations with nothing to show for it. He ended back at the rock wall near the boat ramp where he’d managed to re-locate the giant school he’d found in prefish.

“I couldn’t get those deep fish to eat straight away, so I thought I’d leave them for a bit and come back. I quickly grabbed my jerkbait rod and started working some shallow areas nearby. On probably my tenth cast I connected with the 1.86kg kicker and I decided to throw away the deep bite and stay shallow the rest of the day, as it ended up, that was the last bite I got.”

It was the only bite he needed to secure the runner-up finish and the Bassman BASS Pro AOY award that went with it. Hickson now finds himself in the same situation as Warren Carter did in 2015, having successfully transitioned to an accredited multi species ABT champion.

Hickson’s ice-jig outfit consisted of a Daiwa Harrier baitcast rod, Daiwa Alphas SV reel spooled with 15lb J-Braid and a long 8lb fluorocarbon leader. His Sunday kicker fish fell to a Jackall Squirrel 79 jerkbait in Boney colour.

Evans back with a vengeance

Local favourite Josh Evans came back to the sport of tournament fishing with a bang, winning the non-boater title at the Austackle Boondooma BASS Pro. Fishing with Kris Hickson on day one, and Warren Carter on day two, Evans’ weekend was a testament to the benefits of the shared weight format.

“I learnt so much this weekend from those two guys, I did some techniques I don’t often use personally, and came away a better fisher for it,” explained Evans.

Saturday’s mega session saw Evans on the boat with eventual runner-up Kris Hickson. Evans is no slouch when it comes to the technique of ice-jigging, so when the ice-jigs came out Evans went to work. A double hook-up to kick start the afternoon charge was the best way to get on the board.

“I’ve always loved fishing deep in South Burnett impoundments,” explained Evans. “Ice-jigging is something I’m really comfortable with, and it’s a great technique to get shutdown fish to bite when they’re holding tight to the bottom. Often I don’t even think they are really biting it out of a feeding reaction, more so that I’d just annoyed them into biting by whizzing my ice-jig in front of their face repeatedly.”

Going into Sunday, still shy of overnight leader Robbie Rayner’s and boating partner Simon Marchant’s whopping 5.65kg Saturday morning limit, Evans needed a solid day on the water. Paired with 2015 BASS Pro AOY champion Warren Carter, Evans stayed shallow the whole day.

“I think we stayed in under 8ft of water all day,” said Evans. “Warren is a master at the jerkbait, and it was awesome to be on the boat with him working together to maximise our chances.” The pair caught a 1.81kg Boondooma giant, which was enough to propel Evans over the line, and relegate Robbie Rayner to second.

“Weighing fish like that 1.81kg bass really makes you appreciate the work that the South Burnett put into these dams. Boondooma has got to be one of the best places to come and catch truly giant bass. It has it all, from deep bites to shallow edge bites and gnarly fishing in the timber. I’m really lucky to call this my local dam and really thankful to take the win.”

Evans walked away with a prize bag bulging with products from ABT’s list of generous sponsors. He has secured himself a spot in the ABT BASS Pro Grand Final, which is at the other South Burnett fish hotspot, Bjelke-Peterson Dam, in September.

Austackle Big Bass

Big bass stories don’t get much better than this. Tom Slater caught a gigantic 2.26kg bass on the first cast of the tournament.

“I pulled up to my first spot, which was a weed bed in the Stuart arm before the timber. I cast my jerkbait out and twitched it twice, looked down, adjusted my sounder, spoke briefly with Mark, my non-boater, before my rod jolted with the strike from the fish. I would have paused the lure motionless for at least thirty seconds, if not more, before it struck.”

The fish fell to an OSP Asura jerkbait, an unusual choice for targeting large bass.

“The Asura jerkbait is something I have had a lot of confidence in over the last few months. At 92.5mm, it’s very much a large bait for bass, but even small bass hit the lure with gusto. I like it because it has a slim profile and three treble hooks, meaning you hardly ever miss them.”

His gear of choice consisted of a 13 Fishing ENVY Black 610ML baitcast rod, matched to a 13 Fishing Concept C reel, spooled with 10lb Sufix 832 advanced superline and topped with a 9lb Gamma fluorocarbon leader.

Slater pocketed $500 and a great Austackle prize pack for the first cast miracle, and finished the tournament in 7th place.

OSP Rookie Reward

Owen McPaul claimed the OSP Rookie Reward along with his win. Eligible anglers battle it out at every BassCat BASS Pro event for a chance to win a pack chock-full of high quality OSP lures. These lures are some of the finest bass catching lures on the market. At every tournament, eligible rookies accumulate points from the AOY tally towards the Edge Rods Rookie of the Year (ROY) award. McPaul is now a red-hot favourite to take it out!

Winning Ways

McPaul located fish that were willing to bite, even though they weren’t the 2kg+ Boondooma bass that draw anglers from all over Australia. Quantity proved the winner over quality at the Austackle Boondooma BASS Pro. Light line, slow retrieves and methodical presentation were the cornerstones of McPaul’s successful technique.

Winning Tackle


RodDaiwa Generation Black Albino, Dusk Prototype Rod
ReelDaiwa Caldia 2508
Line8lb Daiwa TD Sensor
Leader4lb or 6lb Gamma fluorocarbon
LureZ-Man Slim SwimZ on TT DemonZ jighead and jig spin, and Keitech Easy Shiner on DemonZ head

Boaters

PlaceAnglerTFTW (kg)Payout
1Owen MCPAUL97$2500 + OSP Rookie
2Kristoffer HICKSON76.11$1,400
3Simon MARCHANT45.65$1000 + Duff Rods Big Bag
4Shaun FALKENHAGEN54.59$900
5Brian EVERINGHAM53.73$700
6Joseph URQUHART53.51$450
7Tom SLATER22.96Austackle Big Bass $500
8David YOUNG22.93
9Matt JOHNSON32.84
10Paul GILLESPIE32.51

Non-boaters

PlaceAnglerTFTW (kg)Payout
1Joshua EVANS76.06Bassman Prize Pack
2Robbie RAYNER45.65Samurai Reaction Rod & Prize Pack
3Paul ALDOUS65.21Spotters Prize Pack
4Grayson FONG54.66Spotters Prize Pack
5Shaun EGAN54.36Berkley Prize Pack
6Brett HYDE53.7313 Fishing Rod & Prize Pack
7Aimee THOMPSON53.17Prize Pack
8James HOWARTH32.59Prize Pack
9James REID22.33Prize Pack
10Mark KING12.26Prize Pack
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